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Actor Emma Thompson
Reuters/Luke MacGregor
Brings down the house.
CROSS EXAMINATION

Actress Emma Thompson has written a #MeToo letter for the ages

By Lila MacLellan

When the history of the #MeToo movement is written, there will no doubt be a section devoted to The Emma Thompson Letter.

The British actress, who walked away from Skydance Media’s production of Luck in late January after the studio hired former Pixar executive John Lasseter to run its animation unit, explained her reasoning in a letter reportedly sent to Skydance management three days after she quit the project. On Feb. 26, the letter was published by The Los Angeles Times, which said Thompson had shared it with the newspaper.

What makes Thompson’s letter such a satisfying read is her series of pointed questions that get to the hypocrisy at the heart of employment conditions like the ones Skydance set for Lasseter, who stepped down from Disney’s Pixar in 2017 amid allegations of unwanted touching and uncomfortable comments made toward female employees.

Since arriving at Skydance, Lasseter, who has admitted to “missteps,” has addressed his history, facing employees in several town hall meetings and asking for a second chance, according to the Times. Skydance employees also were informed that he signed a contract spelling out the rules for proper behavior around staff. Amid the backlash, Paramount Pictures Animation president Mireille Soria, whose company has a distribution deal with Skydance, oh-so-empathetically told female employees that they could choose not to work with Lasseter if they felt uncomfortable.

Thompson, meanwhile, called out Skydance—and effectively all organizations that have accommodated powerful men, knowing they have victimized women physically or emotionally, while potentially putting the women around them at risk. She asks:

  • If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?
  • If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”
  • Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?
  • If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Thompson also expresses regret at not being able to work on Luck with director Alessandro Carloni, best known for the Kung Fu Panda films. But, she essentially says, if I don’t act, who will? In her closing line, she writes:

“I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.”

Notably, of course, this letter was not an empty threat, for Thompson had already quit Luck, taking a symbolic step on behalf of women who can’t afford to do the same thing.

Read the full letter here.